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Orbital Forest, a balance between the city and nature rediscovered
City/Region : Municipality of Tirana , Albania

At a time when some countries are talking about walls, In Tirana we are building a wall of trees to oxygenate the city. The 1st strategic objective in Boeri ‘s General Local Plan 2030 proposes an “Orbital Forest” of 2 million trees, encircling Tirana, acting as a green belt to prevent urban sprawl.  “Don’t underestimate the power of children,” says Tirana’s mayor, Erion Veliaj, "A city for our kids, is a city for all.” The forest ring is populated by kids’ “birthday trees”, planted by families.  We not only create a better future for our children, but we also raise children that will keep this future safe.  

Agendas addressed
DecarbonisationUrban mobilityBiodiversity
Greenfield land and natural spaceClimate changePublic space
Local economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Apply innovative financing approaches
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Support open data standards
Context
Mayor and a kid planting a tree

Over the past 28 years Tirana has faced a rapid population increase, hence urbanisation developed faster than infrastructure needed to support its growth. The population of Tirana increased from 280.000 in 1989 to 1 million. The urban sprawl did not respect the standards of sustainable living, but it rather created a wrong philosophy where housing and business construction were the only things that mattered, everything else such as green or public spaces were undermined, hence there was a notable uneven distribution of green spaces vs buildings.

Studies for Tirana indicate the ratio of open green space for 100,000 inhabitants is only 4.6ha, which is a low value. Also, since 2013, 2 monitoring stations installed within the urban area of Tirana indicate a very high level of air pollution. To make things worse, in 2015 the territorial reform grew the Municipality of Tirana from 42 to 110 square kilomenters, overnight. Immediate lasting actions were needed.

In Action
orbital forest plan

The initiative became the city's sensation. How?

Suddently, everyone in the city wanted to plant trees to celebrate occassions such as valentines day, birthdays, gifts and to create lasting memories of their beloved ones. 

B. Smart Instruments - we have introduced incentives so investors can have a higher construction density and more floors in exchange for more public and green spaces to the lower levels.

    C. Temporary Tax Instrument 

    • We have used for instance, for the last 10 years, a temporary tax to make cities more green, where families paid a small tax equal to a cappuccino per month and all the revenues went to trees and green spaces.

    The planting season successfully ended on Earth Day 22 April, and will will resume again in November 2018.

    Results
    Famous Albanian Comedian donating a Tree

    1. During the first planting season of the Donate a Tree initiative, the target was achieved by 122% and more than 70% of the trees were donations by citizens, companies or international organisations. Hence from the initial target of 100.000 trees, 122.136 were planted in our first season. 

    Please check the posts on #dhuronjepeme (meaning "Donate a Tree") to check out some amazing photos citizens postesd on twitter, faceook and instagram via the links below: 

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/hashtag/dhuronj%C3%ABpem%C3%AB?f=images&vertical=default&src=hash

    (http://aprtirana.al/une-dhuroj/dhuro-nje-peme/)

    2. The Green City Action Plan (funded and supported by EBRD) the policies and course of action it proposes, mark a very important milestone in this effort. This plan enforces the work done so far, guided by our values and vision for a green and sustainable Tirana. With the GCAP, we will also have access to a concrete and implementable action plan that will define the future of Tirana as a green and sustainable city.The Orbital forest and General Local Plan for the first time ever has provided the city with a blueprint for development that recognizes the importance of sustainability and environmentally friendly policies. Indeed it views them as crucial to the creation of a sustainable municipal environment which will stimulate the capital’s economic growth and improve living conditions for our citizens. (http://www.tirana.al/plani-i-veprimit-qyteti-i-gjelber-per-bashkine-tirane/ ) 

    Impact

    1.The environment enrichment (bio diversity and green spaces)

    • Environment enrichment is of course one of the main and most important benefits of this project which will set the right conditions for a healthier life of the Tirana population by considerably increasing green areas for public use through the creation of the Orbital Forest.

    • The green belt of 2 million trees will connect 14,671 hectares of parks, agricultural fields, forests and other forms of vegetation around the city in both public and private properties. It will contain a considerable number of trees with coniferous and/or wide leaves, as well as a combination of various wood species of continuous greenery. Whereas in the most panoramic parts decorative woods will be combined as part of territories of recreational parks, whilst orchards will be mostly part of the rural agricultural territory.

    • Other important benefits are air pollution control, CO2 production, soil erosion control, soil fertility growth, fruit lumber beauty display, flora and fauna improvement, ect. Another benefit is the economic and territorial revitalisation of the area of about 14.000 hectares.

    • Not only will the green belt be able to limit the city expansion beyond its current boundaries, but Tirana will grow in intensity along its historical paths without natural or agricultural soil consumption, but rather multiplying green areas, facilities and public spaces. Thanks to the creation of two green rings inside the central area, suitable for cycling and walking, of a big natural oasis around the lake Farka and green corridors along the rivers, green surfaces in the city will tripple.

    2. Socio-economic impact has been that for the first time, trees and green spaces in Tirana took on such a great part of the everyday news and agenda. The whole initiative became a hit and suddenly everyone knew about it.

    Challenges and lessons learned
    Donate a tree and Yoga on

    The main challenge is to set the initiative in motion and keep following the path despite controversies along the way. Many citizens were sceptical of the difference that one tree at a time would actually do for the city. Nonetheless, the continuous persistence of the Mayor of Tirana and the extreme collaboration of responsible citizens ensured the success of the initiative. 

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    Contact

    ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
    European Secretariat

    Leopoldring 3
    79098 Freiburg
    Germany

    Tel.: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 0
    Fax: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 19

    E-mail: info@sustainablecities.eu
    Website: www.sustainablecities.eu

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